Postpartum Depression

Are you feeling depressive with kids?

by The Anti Depression Team on

Within the first year of birth, parents endure the continuous cryings and the pain of awakenings through the night; it is not strange for parents to feel stress and depressive. During birth period, it is said that women are likely to become depressive or being admitted to hospital because of that.
Studies found depression rate of 7.53% per 100 mothers and 2.69% per 100 fathers each year. The rates jumped higher on the first year of birth, especially for women.

Depressive parents can unfavourably affect the children’s development and growth and also the couple’s relationship. The potential stress could be due to poor sleep, demand and expectation imposed on them, and adjusting to the change in responsibilities. Sadly, not many programs are
available around that help in depressive issues for parents during pregnancy or after birth.

Jamie Nesi suffered mild depression in 2004. Her doctor prescribed a low dose of Prozac, which eased her symptoms. In 2005, Nesi got pregnant with her first child and discontinued the medication at her gynaecologist’s recommendation. For the first two trimesters, things went smoothly and “everyone said I was having a perfect pregnancy,” said Nesi in a phone interview.

However, panic attacks surfaced in Nesi around the 6th month. Soon her sporadic anxiety transformed into full-scale depression that hinted possibility of postpartum depression. “I didn’t want leave my bed. I avoided people, kept crying, ate poorly and even regretted having a baby,” She then got back on a low dose of antidepressants. “It was a very difficult decision; I spoke to my husband, and finally decided on taking antidepressants to prevent postpartum depression.” Nesi says.

Nesi’s depression subsided, but periodic pangs of sadness existed throughout the course of her pregnancy. Two weeks after her son was born, a powerful shift in mood overwhelmed her, swelling into an episode of postpartum depression that lasted four months. “My mother had to come down and take care of my baby,” says Nesi. their adolescence. Furthermore, as Hay’s team was able to include effects of environmental and socioeconomic circumstances, as well as the presence of postpartum depression in the mother’s psychological health, they discovered other stresses in the mother’s life that could explain a child’s antisocial or violent behaviour —smoking, alcohol use, relationship problems and poverty. “It’s antenatal depression instead of postpartum depression, that seems to turn a child violent in nature,” says Hay.

Compared with their healthy counterparts, depressed women are found to have a slightly higher probability of miscarrying and early delivery, making them vulnerable to postpartum depression. Also, a 2006 study found that babies born to depressed mothers were more irritable, less attentive and displayed fewer facial expressions.

Annually, 14% to 23% of pregnant woman in the U.S. experience antenatal depression – which likely causes postpartum depression – according to a joint report by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) and the American Psychiatric Association. ACOG made an urgent call for depression screening as early into pregnancy because “untreated maternal depression inhibits an infant’s cognitive, neurologic and motor skill development”.

Reasons behind high postpartum depression rates

Professionals agree that many cases of antenatal depression which may cause postpartum depression are neglected, partly because “American women prefer a watch-and-wait, ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach to pregnancy illness, due to reluctance to treatment that could impair the foetus, coupled with societal stigma related to postpartum depression” —says Dr. Shari Lusskin, reproductive psychiatry director at New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Centre.

Furthermore, there is a shortage of trained experts in the field of antenatal and postpartum depression. At NYU, a program run by Lusskin trains ob-gyns to identify the problem early by recognising symptoms of prenatal mood disorders through asking patients simple questions

Postpartum depression: not a standalone disorder

Psychologists say that many women like Nesi who experience postpartum depression have had depressive symptoms during pregnancy or even earlier. A 2007 study found that of 4,400 pregnant women, more than 10% suffered postpartum depression, and nearly half of those women experienced depression beforehand, either during pregnancy or in the nine months before they got pregnant.

Due to high postpartum depression rates, researchers have increasingly focused on antenatal depression (depression during pregnancy) to observe a connection between mothers’ antenatal depression and negative behaviour in children. It potentially involves womb environments and their long-term impact on growing foetuses — a process called “foetal programming.” Hormone levels in the mother’s body and postpartum depression are influenced by alcohol or drug use, poor nutrition and stress, possibly affecting the baby’s development, birth weight and susceptibility to disease.

In 2003, a large Finnish study found that sons of antenatal-depressed women, who may have also suffered postpartum depression, were more likely to commit crimes before they turned 30. Similarly, a new study led by Dale Hay, professor of psychology at Cardiff University in UK, found that children born to antenatal-depressed women with or without postpartum depression, were four times more liable to be caught for violent crimes by age 16 than children of healthy mothers. The study interviewed 120 random women from South London during their pregnancy and after delivery. Researchers also interviewed the participants’ children periodically throughout about their mood.

But once antenatal depression is diagnosed, drug treatments are difficult decisions due to scarce safety usage information provided on legal drugs, including antidepressants that may prevent postpartum depression.

As for depressed women like Nesi who fall into the high-risk category of chronic mood disorders causing postpartum depression, antidepressants may be essential, says Lusskin, since “risks of untreated ailments are known (e.g. suffering postpartum depression) and may be worse than the potential harmful effects of taking the drug.”

Yet many women with milder cases of depression decline medications. Ariela Frieder, psychiatrist at Montefiore Medical Centre in NY, says treatment for these women should focus on the particular stressors and contributors to their mood disorder. “Depressions like postpartum depression have multiple origins, like life conditions, genetic factors, or a present history of depression,” says Frieder,

At Touch Institute in Miami, massage therapist and psychologist Tiffany Field trains husbands and significant others to give their pregnant women restorative massages as her 2008 study of 200 depressed pregnant women discovered that women who received back massages biweekly have reduced stress hormones levels, depressive thoughts and premature birth and low birth weight in infants than women who did not get the massages.

Like many other conditions, social support from loved ones aids one’s health, preventing postpartum depression. Frieder feels that it’s “important to educate them and let them know what’s happening. Because a lot of times, [they] just don’t know how they can help”.


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